Baldy Fire Lookout
Time: 2 hours
Distance: 6 km (return)
Elevation Gain: 400 m
How To Get There: Travelling west from Red Deer on Highway 11, turn north at Shunda Creek Rd., just past the main Nordegg entrance. Keep riving north until you reach a Y in the road. Stay to your right on Baldy Tower Rd. and travel about 5 km until you reach a closed gate. This is where the trail begins.
If you’re looking for an even trail to run-up quickly and aren’t too concerned about the views as you get there, this would be a great hike to try. Baldy Fire Lookout is situated on a still-used today fire road. The trail’s other name is Shunda Mountain, as it leads to the summit of, you guessed it, Shunda Mountain. In addition to being a good running trail, this hike could also be used for a good shoulder season trail if you’re looking to stretch your legs before spring really hits.
The trailhead begins at a large red gate. The gate can be opened if you would rather drive as close as you can get to the top, but where’s the fun in that? Since the trail is technically just a fire road, it’s graveled, wide and maintained.
The trail is a continuous incline upwards but the incline isn’t severe, so you barely notice at the beginning that you’re climbing towards anything.
The road isn’t straight as it resembles something of a switchback, moving back and forth up the mountain.
It was the middle of the winter when I made the hike so much of the road was covered in snow and ice. A lot of the area is exposed to the sun, so the snow wasn’t deep and much of the ice had already turned to slush by mid-afternoon.
There is only one brief moment on the way up where I was able to catch a glimpse of the neighbouring Mt. Coliseum off in the south eastern distance.
After a few kilometres of hiking up, I was offered a brief detour to my left.
Climbing up a small knoll takes you to a strange place that looks like it was almost set up to be a monument.
I’m not entirely sure what I was looking at but it almost reminded me of a giant wind chime.
After taking a brief look around for answers, I finally descended back the way I had come from and continued along the snow covered trail. Large coniferous trees were the only thing I had to keep me company along the way.
Just before the trees began to give way to alpine grassland, I passed a sign that reminded visitors that the area was fragile and home to many rare and unique plants.
Once the trees had begun to disappear, a hedgehog fence appeared beside the trail as an additional reminder to hikers that they were not welcome on the grass. This is when the views really opened up and I was finally able to get a good look at the surrounding mountains.
The trail turns into a backwards C-curve as it moves westerly along the mountain summit, slowly moving upwards until the snow disappears under the sun’s more constant glow. It wasn’t long before I was able to catch the far off blue of Abraham Lake.
At the top of the road is the fire lookout. It’s an active fire lookout so the area is completely gated off and prevents visitors from getting too close.
This is because the employees are constantly watching out for any signs of fire or other dangers and it is important that they remain vigilante and aren’t distracted. There is an information board as well as a large sign that lets you know you’ve reached Mt. Baldy Fire Lookout.
I walked around the area for a little bit as the top of the mountain is a wide grassy area that allows for a lot of movement. I found a birdhouse and a great shot of Mt. Coliseum and Nordegg.
Surrounding the lookout is a lot of random inukshuks and cairns that have been left behind by past hikers. I sat down beside one of them, ate some lunch and then took some pictures of the vegetation that covers the ground.
Then it was back down the way I had come. While I was up at the top, several guys past me and said that they had managed to drive pretty close to the Lookout before the snow had prevented them from going further. The tire tracks on my way down showed me exactly where they had ended up and they had actually gotten pretty close. This was proof to me that it was really easy to drive all the way up to the top on a good weather day. But why drive when you can hike?